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filling the void

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fo Shizzle!

This is a surefire sign that language is going to hell, and quite possibly culture with it.
In tha ghetto, bitches!

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Multi-touch interfaces

A friend just sent me this video of an awesome demonstration of a wall-based direct graphic multi-touch interface. I'm not entirely sure what it would be used for other than working with images and possibly some modelling (I preferr a real tactile keyboard when typing), but I do know that this is a sign that the future is now.
Cool things are happening, and slowly but surely they are being brought out in the lime light.
I even heard someone has flying cars available for preorder.
Anyway, check this cool demonstration out. It will blow your socks off!


Full On Ferry Fiasco

Last night me and my girlfriend (as well as a couple of thousand other souls) went to the Full On Ferry Masquerade in Rotterdam. I had had some bad feelings about the whole thing for a couple of days, but I chalked it up to my s.a.d.
Anyway, we got on the train from Enschede at 21.57 to go to Rotterdam. A 2½ hour train trip and a subway ride later, we were showing the people at the gate our tickets.
Once we got inside, we started moving to the dance floor. The place featured only once large-ish dance floor, and a staging area where one could buy hotdogs (the only food available), and some trinkets and other knick-knacks.
We went to the dance floor to get a feel for the music. 30 minutes later, I was convinced that the DJ had not changed the record. Not because of mad DJing skills making for seamless transitions, but rather because it sounded exactly the same. Similar is ok, it's in the same genre, but the same?
Not only was the music incredibly repetitive, but it was also horrible. Labeled as a trance event, this was the housiest trance I have ever heard. And it wasn't the good kind of housy trance (there are a few tunes), but rather trance laid on top of a lazily crafted house loop. Absolutely nothing going on but the rhythm. The music was incredibly boring.
We left around 3 am.
The problem was that last night was the switch day for daylight savings time, which gave us a wonderful extra hour. Now, had this been at a great party, I would have liked it, but the fact that we were stuck in the cold Rotterdam night with no way of getting back to any kind of civilization made this extra hour seem like hell.
Our first train was scheduled to leave at 7.32, a lovely 4½ hours later. As this was clearly unacceptable, we embarked on a long winded train trek over what seemed like all of Holland, just to be indoors on a train instead of waiting out in the cold.
The train trip that normally takes just over 2½ hours took us somewhere around 4.
For those of you who don't know, Holland seems completely devoid of indoor waiting areas. This is fine in July, but it is unacceptable in October.

I've been let down by Ferry Corsten and his ilk before, but this was the last time.
From now on I will refuse to spend 39 EURO parties that I know will never ever be worth the money. If I also have to travel to another part of the country just to attend, I'll be even less likely to go.
I've known for a long time that spending anything over 10 euro on a party is too much, compared to the value I get for it, but silly little me, I keep on going anyway.
Well I say no more. The stupidity ends now!
No more crappy mainstream trance events. From now on I choose my parties with care. Even though it means going to fewer parties, I am totally fine with that.
Seeing as how I am a poor student, I can't afford to blow 100 EUROS for a party night anyway.

I hate seeing stupidity in other people, it's painful, but seeing stupidity in my self is the worst.
Hopefully I can remember this vow next time a big party comes up...

Fuck you Ferry, Fuck you very much!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Half-life 2 - Episode Two

I recently finished playing Half-life 2 - Episode two. When I first played the original Half-life 2, I was blown away not so much by the graphics engine, but by the graphics themselves. Sure, the marvelous physics engine was incredible, but the way they painted the landscape and the dysotopian future is what made me come back to the game and play it over again three times.
The colors they used, especially in the outdoor scenes, and the way things looked real was what really hit home.
I generally play FPSs for the story, and not to weave some skill. If FPS skill was what it was all about, I'd be doing de_dust day in and day out, but that's just not fun. (Ok, it's awesome, but for short periods of time).
The story that the team at Valve have spun, stretching over four installments of the Half-life 2 game (3 of which are currently available) is just incredible. The characters are all well made, incredibly well scripted and voices, and most of all, they are real. The only game where I have felt such reality was in Myst and Riven.
The first Half-life 2 game took me some 15-20 hours to play through. At the time I thought this was an acceptable amount of entertainment for the price of the game. The promise of episodic content to be released on a short schedule made my mouth water. The problem, as we all know, is that they failed to deliver. The first game came out in 2004, after having been postponed in 2003. The next episode came out in 2006. The whole point of having episodic content is that you run with the technology you have, and just create more content. This was supposed to lead to shorter inter-release times, but that apparently did not happen. They did a better job on episode 2, which was released just one year after episode one.

Now, as great as both episode one and episode two were to play, they lacked something fundamental, and that was time. They were both incredibly short. I finished episode two in 2/3 or the time that I finished episode one (6 and 9 hours, respectively).
Of course, people could say "play on a harder difficulty", but that's not the point. Sure that would make the battles themselves last longer, but in a game that is mostly about story, and very much about puzzle solving, this would not add as much time as it would add frustration and get in the way of the story.
Other than the time spent, I only have one gripe, and that's that Gordon's gloves looked like they were chromed. I can expect this kind of gloss from things like Need For Speed - Underground, but I expected a flatter and dryer look in Half-life 2. Also, the detail on some of the weapons was terrible, but these things could just have been texture glitches.

All in all I am very happy with what they've done with the game. My only hope is that episode three, the conclusion (which hopefully will ship around this time next year) will finish off with a bang, and take around 20 hours to complete. That way the start and the end would be balances, and episodes one and two could be seen as mere interludes.

Another wonderful feature is the directors commentary. I would have loved to have that in the original Half-life 2.
I also ran through portal in a couple of hours. It was a fun game, but I'm not as excited about is as the general gaming press seems to be. I did like GLaDOS though. All the cake references added another layer of sweetness (frosting?) to the game.

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Monday, October 22, 2007


Frost on the rooftops this morning.
There's a serene and peaceful quality about frost.
Or maybe it's just the beautiful sunrise.
Winter is coming.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Winter is Coming

I look outside my window today and it looks like an absolutely gorgeous day. Nary a cloud, and the sky is blue.
Looks can be deceiving, however, because I know that it's fucking freezing outside. I got the brunt of the mummy's wrath when biking home from my girlfriend's house earlier today.
I snipped this from the BBC online weather service (if you're from the BBC and you don't like this, just tell me).
As you can see in the "Summary" column, we're in for some nice weather. What's deceptive about this is the ghastly nighttime temperatures. As you can see, circled at the bottom right, is the -3 degrees C we will have on Monday night.
Last winter I experienced a grand total of 2 or 3 days with temperatures below 0 here in Enschede, and none of them were in the middle of October. I've got a bad feeling about this. The dutch say that this summer has sucked, so I can only assume that means that we're in for a shitty winter too.
Why ohh why can't I just live in a beach hut somewhere?...

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Base jumping

A friend just sent me a link to this video, it's just about the coolest thing I've ever seen a human do.
Granted, it's dangerous, but it's not stupid.
I believe that if I wasn't so keen on keeping my head squarely on my shoulders, this is the kind of stuff I would absolutely love to do.
And in the alps too, what a fucking rush this must have been.
Regular skydiving is for pansies, that's all I have to say...

The things these people get out of life, I am pretty sure cannot be canned or put in a pill and sold. This, to me, looks pretty close to the ultimate rush!
Doing summersaults while sniffing 50cm out from the cliff wall... There are no words to describe this!

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Jeff Dunham

I found something today that is absolutely hilarious! Jeff Dunham is an extremely talented ventriloquist with 5 loquacious companions; Ahmed the dead terrorist, peanut, Melvin, Walter and Jose jalapeno on a stick. Coincidentally, in order of funniness.
Ahmed is by far the funniest. Peanut is ok, but after that it trails down.
Anyway, for your enjoyment, here they are:

Ahmed the dead terrorist - http://youtube.com/watch?v=1uwOL4rB-go
Peanut part 1 - http://youtube.com/watch?v=oQm_8vX3sYU
Peanut part 2 - http://youtube.com/watch?v=f9KK3FlVC2w
Peanut part 3 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrr4rV4AaOU&NR=1
Melvin part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeRDgAkK-zs
Melvin part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d70SLc6BfA0
Walter part 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jf81dE4DS20
Walter part 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-MmzCQSuFw

They were recorded for comedy central, and they are well worth watching.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Burning the candle

You know what's really good about living in a foreign country?
Birthdays! I absolutely hate birthdays. Mine as well as others, but mostly mine.
When you live in a different country, you not only rid your family members of the terrible task of buying you some nonsense thing that you don't need, but you also get rid of that task yourself.
Now, don't get me wrong, I love giving things to the people I like, it's not that, it's just the eternal problem of what do you give to the man who has everything?
I'm not saying that I do, but I know that if there's anything out there that I want (and that is reasonably priced), I buy it. I know that the rest of my family and my friends are the exact same way. Things that fall outside my range of reasonably priced wouldn't fit in that range for your family members anyway, so it comes down to trying to find something that is both acceptably expensive and that will also be liked by the recipient.
When I was 7 years old, this posed absolutely no problem what so ever. Now that I'm 28 going on 29 (I shiver at the very thought), this has become an insurmountably complex problem. It's even worse when it comes to parents.
Also, when your family members aren't around, you can conveniently forget your birthday. That way you don't have to acknowledge the fact that you're not getting any younger, and the years only get shorter and shorter.
All in all it's a win-win situation for everybody.

I'll make you all a deal right here. If you promise to conveniently forget about my birthday, I'll promise to forget about yours, and we'll all live happily ever after in blissful ignorance...

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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Nobel Peace Prize 2007

The laureates for the Nobel Peace Prize were announced today. It goes to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Al Gore, each getting half of the price.
"for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change"
It is well deserved I think. Global warming is a serious issue that we need to look at.

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Bruce Schneier Talks at Defcon 15

From Bruce's blog we get a link to the talk he gave at Defcon 15. It's actually just a Q&A session, but it's quite insightful and interesting. Besides, Bruce is an awesome speaker, he's funny, he's charismatic, and he has a great voice. If this man was selling volcano insurance, I'd buy it in a second.
He takes some questions about the flying withing an ID, and the TSA, and why they have one of the shittiest jobs in the world. He goes on to talk about crypto and hash functions and how NIST is going to do for hash functions what they did for the AES, namely have a competition to get the next successor to SHA-1.
He also gets a question about privacy which he answers brilliantly and at length. This, for me, was the highlight of the show.
He then talks about side channel attacks on crypto and electronic voting and some more crypto.
All in all a very good way to spend 49 minutes and 20 seconds. It's available from google video here.

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Now the UK is also off-limits for me.

For the longest time (basically since the introduction of the PATRIOT act) the US has been off-limits for me. Not because I've committed any crime punishable under it, but rather because it gives law enforcement the legal right to do whatever the fuck the want to people without having to prove anything.
Now, after a long line of similar atrocities, the UK is also on my no-fly list. Almost once a week I read about new legal development in the UK (usually on Slashdot and on Bruce Schneier's Blog) that gives the police similar freedoms there. You'd think that people in an EU country would be more resilient to big brother-ness like this, but apparently law makers don't listen to the people anymore (when have they ever, right...).
One could argue that the big grey mass of people would like to give up liberty to gain security, which doesn't actually work, but the reality is that the big grey mass of people probably don't vote anyway, should something like this actually be voted on via referendum.
The US and UK are now right up there with North Korea and China on the list of countries that don't give a flying fuck about the liberties of their citizens, and will do anything to bring about a police state much in the same way that Germany worked back in the day (can someone say Gestapo?). Bush seems intent on finding a final solution to the liberty problem, but other than the problem statement, there are a lot of similarities between him and some other guys in history I can think of.

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I find my education lacking

A big problem that software developers face today, with the advent of multi-core cpus and grid computing is parallel programming. Ask any computer scientist and he (most often he, sometimes she) will tell you that one of the 'big' problems that computer scientists face is problems of concurrency and parallelism.
Despite this well known and difficult to tackle problem, I have yet to see a single university course that deals with this in depth. Sure, some basic programming courses mention that this IS a problem, but doesn't arm you with any tool to solve these problems, or explain the problems in detail.
Granted, most toy examples that are used in schools never require any parallelism, but that's why I think there should be an entire course dedicated to it. A course where you wouldn't address some random problem and hope to solve it in a parallel manner, but you would specifically craft problems that would only be solved in this way.
Research into this area has gotten so far that most known issues in parallel programming even have names and scenarios drawn up for them to explain them properly, but this is never seen on a university level.
Looking over the various education paths available to a computer science student, I'd need to complete 4-5 masters programs to learn all the stuff I'm interested in from a teacher.
Sure, most people who are genuinely interested in their profession will take it upon themselves to read about this on their own time, but some of it might still need explanation, and people might need guidance. Also, getting a different view on a problem you're struggling to solve can be invaluable.

What I had really wanted from my stay at university was to learn how to program. To learn it in detail, learn different programming paradigms, learn how to solve problems, and to become a damn fine hacker(not that kind of hacker, look it up). Instead we are bombarded with modelling courses and levels upon levels of abstraction. I'm not saying that these courses are bad, because they're not. I'm just saying that there should be a university education for people interested in computer science (who suck at math, like I do), but that don't want to gun for middle-management right out of some data entry job. For the people who want to build hammers instead of use hammers to build houses.

I could have learned twice as much in half the time had there been a program like this for me. I would gladly have ditched a large portion of the courses I have taken in favor of proper advanced programming courses.
Maybe that's just me though, maybe I'm of a different breed, more old school that other people, but the last thing I want to wear to work is a shirt and tie...

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Infected Mushroom - Vicious Delicious

I just got my hands on Intefected Mushroom's newest album Vicious Delicious.
I know it's been out for several months, but I never got around to actually listening to it until now.
I must say that it is a radical departure from what they have done in the past. While this is only partly the Infected Mushroom I know, I still like the album a lot.
The beginning has some flavor of rock and whatever the genre name for what Link Park plays is. I'm not saying that it sounds like it, but it has some elements of similar styles. This latest album is also somewhat slower than their previous albums. There are a lot of guitars on this album. The guitars are very goa, yet also not. Lots of lyrics, much of them coherent instead of just small clips of a sentence and a half.
It gets older and trancier towards the end. More back to the roots.

All in all, it's not hard to see why so many people like Infected Mushroom. Sure, not everything they make is good (B.P Empire and Converting Vegetarians come to mind), but I must say they have a higher average than most, and the music that is good is just that much better.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Choice Overload

I found an interesting blog post over at Intel's research blog titled Parallel programming environments: less is more.
It talks about how offering users too many choices that individually have little or no benefit over the others might cause users to walk away instead of diving in to the sea och choice and working something out.

My comment to the article was as follows

I would say that this applies to more areas of programming than just parallel programming. I think that Sun made the correct decision when it delivered not only a programming language for java but an incredibly complete API to go with it.
If you compare to C/C++, which is similar in performance and use today (people will argue about that I guess, but there are many studies both confirming and denying what I just said, anyway...), you get a similar language with similar language constructs, but you have a horde or APIs to choose from for virtually anything you could possibly want to program. Everything from string handling to sockets to threads.
Much the same way with linux distributions and software in general.
Consolidate choices to make fewer and better products. (This only works to some exten[t] though, much like uniting countries in unions (us & eu, for instance))
This is a topic that often comes up in conversation for me. Not with regards to parallel programming, but rather in connection with the things I stated above, software in general and countries or organizations. I realize that someone may have a unique vision and decides to create a product based on it, and this is fine. The problem is when everybody does it, instead of picking one of the already existing products and helping to make it better.
I believe that choice is good, choice benefits the consumer if there is a surmountable amount of it. There is always a breaking point, where uniting too many things will reduce the entire effort to a rubble with too many creative minds wanting to go in different directions, but I firmly believe that, taking the world of linux distributions for an example, it would be possible to create something like 3-4 distributions with heaving intellectual and professional backing, rather than the around 350 virtually identical distributions we have today.
Much like Microsoft went overboard with (I think) 7 different versions of vista. Microsoft has succeeded so far for many reasons, but one of them have been by limiting the choice the users have. Getting everybody to rally behind one cause inevitably makes that cause better than having a single cause for every participant.

Diversity is good, but having too much of it hampers development.

(I realize that I've been using the Swedish spelling of parallell (with the double Ls at the end) all over the internet, including in the Intel blog comment. I'll try to keep the languages apart from now on.)

UPDATE: Apparently Intel is very selective about what comments it allows in its posts. I should have realized that I was not the first to comment on a 1-day old story that figured on slashdot, Intel just isn't showing any comments...

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